Blowout and fire in Iran 1974
Blowout and fire in Iran 1974. My fifth day in the oilfield. A story by Dave Coleman
In 1974 SEDCO had a trainee program for college graduates to enter the drilling business working on the rigs to eventually become toolpushers and rig managers. I had graduated from The University of Texas a year earlier with a business degree and was working with my father running an Exxon owned service station and car wash. I liked working outside and with equipment so when I heard about Sedco hiring I signed up. My friend and college roommate, Dennis Welborn also signed up.
This was September- October 1974 and after a 2 week course at Odessa College our group of 40 trainees were sent overseas. Half went to Aberdeen, Scotland to work offshore 14/14 in the North Sea, and the rest went to Ahwaz, Iran working 14/7 on land rigs. We flew into Abadan Iran landing late one night and were taken by car to the base in Ahwaz. Next morning we had some orientation and were split up and sent to various rigs all over South Iran. Bob Burnett and myself were assigned Rig 77 in Agha Jari field. A driver took us across the desert towards a raised hilly plateau which was atop the oilfield. We went to the portable rig camp, were assigned a shared room, and got ready to start the 12 hour workday the next morning.
We rode with the crew towards our rig about 2 miles away and passed between a rig on one side of the road and some engines and pumps on the other side. Our driller said that the Santa Fe Drilling rig had a blowout after drilling too deep before setting casing without a diverter stack. He said it was flowing gas and a lot of condensate uncontrolled. They had even removed some of the equipment as it was not going to be killed very easily. We passed by it the next few days and then I was put on night tour with my Driller, a Canadian named Charlie Staroba. Charlie was a good guy and easy to get along with.
Eighteen months later I was a very green driller working for him as he was promoted to tour pusher on Sediran Rig 11. That first night Charlie told me to go help change a piston on Mud Pump no. 2 . About 7 PM I was on top of the pump bent over trying to understand what the Iranian crew was doing when Charlie called down to get my attention. I looked up and that rig about a mile away was on fire. That was pretty much the focus of the rest of our tour. Just watching it burn. The fire spread quickly down and through the hills catching all of that week’s worth of flowed condensate on fire. Within an hour half the world in front of me was burning with flames going very high and getting closer to us. I distinctly remember saying to myself ” what did I get myself into ?”
About 9 PM we were thinking we might have to evacuate . An OSCO pickup drove up and Bill Murchison Sr. got out, introduced himself and took over our small toolpusher office and radio room. He started the 2 month process to bring in Red Adair’s team, rig up 2 rigs to drill directional relief wells, and eventually kill the blowout. Charlie and I got off work at 6AM and on the way to our camp drove right up to the burning rig with the mast laid over and took pictures of each other. I have attached the pictures here.
We spent the rest of 1974 drilling our wells and helping to support the blowout killing operation with whatever they asked for. I got to meet Boots Hansen and Coots Mathews, they liked the food in our camp. I eventually realized I liked the drilling business and made a 40 year career of it. I worked up to Driller, Toolpusher, OIM, Rig and Operations Manager of land and offshore operations with Sedco Forex Schlumberger, Pride International, and Weatherford Drilling.
I spent 35 years working international, 17 years of that as a resident. I retired in 2014 as a Sr. Country Manager, resident in Dubai and then a Well Control Instructor at Intertek in Spring, Tx. I showed this picture and get to tell this and other stories in my classes. It has been an interesting career and I enjoyed it and the people I met and friends I made. I retired at age 67 last November..